The Sappers and Miners

In lands that still the heirs of Othman sway,
There lives a legend, wild as wildest note
Of birds that haunt the Arabian waste, where rolls
Tigris through Baghdad to the Persian Sea.
'Tis fabled that the mighty sorcerer,
King Solomon, when he died, was sitting aloft,
Like one that mused, on his great lion-throne;
Sitting with head bent forward o'er his staff,
Whereon with both his hands he leaned. And tribes
And peoples moved before him, in their awe
Not venturing nigh; and tawny fiercenesses,
Panther and pard, at timorous distance couched;
While Figures vast, Forms indeterminate,
Demons and Genii, the Enchanter's thralls,
Cloudily rose, and darkly went and came.
But so majestic sat he lifeless there,
And counterfeited life so perfectly,
That change of hue or feature was by none
Seen, and none guessed him dead, and every knee
Rendered him wonted homage, until worms
Gnawing his staff, made fall that last support,
And with it fell the unpropped Death, divulged
In gorgeous raiment to the wondering world.
So may an Empire, from whose body and limbs
The spirit hath wholly fled, still seem to breathe
And feel, still keep its living posture, still
Cheat with similitude of glory and power
The gazing Earth, until the evil things
That burrow in secret, and by night destroy,
Unseat the grandiose Semblance, and man's heart
Hastes to forget the obeisances he made
To a jewelled corse, long ripe for sepulture.
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